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Archive for the ‘Malawi’ Category

10/16/09: Somewhere near the Wheelhouse, Malawi

When Marietjie told us that the people in Malawi love to exchange their crafts for tourists’ old clothing and other sundries, I immediately regretted letting Kevin talk me into leaving a few short-sleeved shirts and my old pair of flip-flops at home. I regretted it even more when I kept seeing people walk out of the truck with old pairs of socks and hats and return with wooden bowls and goblets. So on our last day in Malawi, I demanded Kevin that we go through all of our things and get together all the things we didn’t need or want so that we could get a bunch of other things that we also don’t need (but I want).

We came up with:

1 Masterlock combination lock (originally brought two for the lockers on the truck, but they were too big; Kevin wouldn’t let me barter the second one “just in case we need it later on”)
1 small notepad and pen (NOT one of our good Pilot pens, obviously)
1 Kenya Airways pillow (given to us by Pamela)
12 or so clothespins (also given to us by Pamela)
1 pair broken sunglasses (mine, I think I sat on them)
1 salmon-colored nightie and matching flowery bikini top (sound familiar?)
1 sparkly blue flapper dress and matching scarf (one broken strap on the dress due to Kevin’s overly-vigorous manner)
15 or so small hair bands
15 or so bobby pins
600 kwacha (the last of our Malawi money)

Armed with this miscellaneous assortment of goodies, we walked into the shops and offered up our items for trade. We ended up with:

2 small wooden bowls with lids
2 miniature wooden chairs (Malawi is well-known for their wooden chairs, but Kevin wouldn’t let me buy a life-sized one)
1 wooden giraffe
1 small canoe (don’t know what we’ll do with this)
1 small drum and matching drumstick
1 flowery bikini top
1 blue flapper dress and matching scarf

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I think we may have been able to get something for the blue flapper dress and scarf, but that was the last thing we had and Kevin kept opening the bartering with “Sorry, this is all we have,” and apologetically holding up the blue dress at arm’s length and looking disgustedly at it. I tried to explain to him that we needed to talk UP our things for exchange, not look disgusted by them even if those were our true feelings, but his inner morality compass wouldn’t even allow for that little bit of exaggeration. Shockingly honest man I married, huh? Luckily, there are some markets in Livingston that also allow bartering, so I have high hopes of exchanging that blue dress and matching scarf for a small hippo. Kevin is not allowed to come.

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Picture of the Day: Explanatory sign in the bathroom showing how to use (and not use) the toilet

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10/15/09: Wheelhouse campsite, Malawi

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A 70 kph speed limit and penguin crossing at the unsteady Wheelhouse bar

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I could chew on ice cubes for days back home. I know that this is supposedly not good for your teeth, but neither is growing older and I don’t try to stop that. Here in Africa though, ice cubes have been a scarce luxury. In fact, I hadn’t had one in our first month of the tour. That all changed today.

Zhou, having become a huge fan of ice cold Coca Cola (I would call her Mean Zhou Green, but I don’t think she’d get that reference), ordered one at the bar this afternoon, only to find that it wasn’t all that cold. Rather than throw it into Lake Malawi, she instead did the unthinkable and asked for a glass of ice to pour it in.

Up until today, we had both been adamantly following everyone’s advice not to drink the water here. Unfortunately that also meant no ice cubes. So when Zhou ordered the glass of ice, I immediately thought our five weeks together had made her go crazy. Then I thought again. We’ve been eating unwashed fruit using barely washed utensils and completely unsanitary hands. The cookware and dishes wouldn’t score a 50 on those restaurant sanitation tests (and to put it in perspective KFC scored at least a 90). I personally have been bitten by more bugs than a cartoon carrot (groan). We’ve been dirtier than pigs in mud and I only shower once every three days to do anything about it. How bad could a few ice cubes possibly be?

Here it would make sense for me to say both Zhou and I are deathly sick, and that that was the worst decision we’ve made on the trip. But actually, I feel great! There are only two possible explanations: either the ice cubes came from bottled water, or the myth of bad water in non-American countries is a load of crap (and the result of drinking the water is not). Although I’m not ready to put the latter explanation to the test, today’s adventure did make me think of the Top Ten Things I Miss While Traveling:

10) Survivor (Living the show in real life does not make up for not watching it)
9) Air conditioning (There have been some oppressively hot nights in the tent)
8) Regularity (This may be too much information, but let’s just say my diet isn’t great on the road)
7) High Speed Internet (Even now that we’re supposedly used to it, slow connections are frustrating as can be)
6) Chili dogs (Too many dry, stale ham sandwiches)
5) Cool Runnings (Not a day goes by where there’s not a great time for a Cool Runnings quote)
4) Cold chocolate milk and cranberry juice (I really should have had chocolate milk at our wedding)
3) Competition (Everything in Africa happens at such a relaxed pace, when all I really want to do is beat someone at something!)
2) Football (Especially the fantasy variety, since the Browns I hear are terrible again this year.)
1) Exercise (As much as I hate working out when I’m doing it, I hate not doing it a lot lot more.)

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Picture of the Day: This hole in the Wheelhouse bar floor is plenty big for a Scrabble tile to become fish food, but Zhou decided to drop her tile into a bar cooler instead, so we remain steady at 99 tiles.

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Dressed to Frill

10/13/09 – 10/14/09: Kande Beach, Malawi

This is why I don’t party much:

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One Acacia tradition that we found out about recently is “Fancy Dress Night.” Everyone who participates has a budget of 500 Kwacha (a little more than $3) to buy an outfit for a random other person drawn from a hat. As you can see, my person took the name of the night literally.

Yesterday we stopped at a street-side market to buy clothes for this evening. As we pulled up, I noticed a couple of clothing shops set up a little ways from the road. We would never reach these shops.

Immediately after departing the bus, ten guys came running up to us with bags of the most ridiculous looking outfits I have ever seen. Three questions quickly came to mind:

Where in the world did these guys just come from? (No idea.)

Do they really make any money selling this junk? (Probably, as many Acacia trucks pass through this area.)

Where are all the men’s clothes? (Nowhere.)

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I was overwhelmed by the whole situation, so I decided Zhou would have to help me shop for my person (Carol, who named her car Tallulah after Junior’s mom in Cool Runnings, so you know where she stands in my book). Zhou was having the time of her life already in the pile of outrageous outfits – no help there. Another truckmate offered to help out, and after a bit of quick, bad negotiating on her part, she got me a dress and non-matching headband for 100 Kwacha over budget. If only this was my biggest problem of the night.

I think I now understand why drinking was invented. Most people were actually quite comfortable in their outfits by the end of the night. Mine never really grew on me no matter how much water I drank or pork I ate. So enjoy the photos in this post now because I doubt you’ll see anything like them again for a long long time.

The five remaining guys on the tour, including our driver, Richard, in the mankini in the middle

The five remaining guys on the tour, including our driver, Richard, in the mankini in the middle

Carol, pirate Sarah and Zhou. Unlike myself, Sarah doesn’t actually need the eye patch, that was just part of the costume

Carol, pirate Sarah and Zhou. Unlike myself, Sarah doesn’t actually need the eye patch, that was just part of the costume

Unfortunately, this is what the pig wore

Unfortunately, this is what the pig wore

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Picture of the Day: After a long couple days embarrassingly described above, you’d think it’d be our truck that needs the jump. But no, Acacia is the gift that keeps on giving.

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Now We in Malawi

10/13/09: Malawi

Kenya: Very desert-y with patches of greenery

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Uganda: A rainforest

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Tanzania: A dust bowl

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Malawi: Vermont?

These were my first impressions of the landscapes of each of the countries we’ve visited thus far. Before coming to Africa, I naively thought two things: hot and dry. However, the vast differences from country to country exemplify how much this continent has to offer.

Now we are in Malawi, where two qualities have really stood out to me during our hours spent on the truck. The first is Lake Malawi – easily the biggest lake I’ve ever seen (although internet would have to be cheaper for me to want to spend the time to verify this). We’ve spent about seven hours driving down its west coast, and probably have another six to go. What’s most impressive though is how it looks and feels like an ocean – the water blends in with the sky miles away in the horizon. It’s only when you get in it and taste the fresh water that you realize it’s just a huge lake.

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The second prominent landscape feature has been the trees with fall colors. A lot of the road we’ve driven on thus far has been surrounded by reds and oranges and yellows of the fall leaves, even though it is spring here. If anyone has an explanation for why the trees shed their leaves in the spring here, I’d be interested to hear it.

So although I’ve never been to Vermont, this is somewhat how I picture it: with the Atlantic Ocean to one side and the fall leaves on the hillsides to the other. The only difference is that Malawi is really cool, while I still have no intention of visiting Vermont.

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Picture of the Day: A little taste of home… me not being able to dunk no matter how many times I try (although I got really close).

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10/12/09: Mikumi, Tanzania to Chitimba Beach, Malawi

5:00am – wake up to take an extremely hot shower that is heated by a huge piece of wood on fire
5:20am – stumble back to tent and wake up Kevin
5:25am – wake Kevin up again
5:30am – de-pitch the tent, attempting to stay clean and cursing silently at why it does not ever seem to fit into its bag correctly
6:00am – eat breakfast of cereal and milk (again) and make sandwiches with ham and grated cheese for lunch
6:45am – clean up and get everything packed into our lockers on the truck
7:00am – fall asleep as the truck rolls away from camp
9:00am – wake up and debate whether or not to eat one of my lunch sandwiches – decide to eat one and immediately regret decision
9:15am – truck makes a toilet stop; go out with the rest of the girls to use a very public “bathroom”
11:00am – reach border and sit in sweltering truck while Marietjie gets us all of our exit stamps; try to leave Kevin behind as the bus starts while he is still in the bathroom, but fail to actually leave him in Tanzania
11:15am – reach border and get in line to get stamped into new country; get offered a job of counting money for the customs people with the wages of one drink a day
12:00pm – eat second sandwich while on the bus; immediately regret decision
2:30pm – reach new campsite; breathe a sigh of relief
2:35pm – pitch tent with minimal cursing in the head involved
3:00pm – find four tiny puppies playing in the bushes and try to steal one
3:02pm – am forced by Kevin to leave the puppies alone and go for a swim instead
3:10pm – swim around in Lake Malawi
6:00pm – drink a coke against my better judgment (happens a lot more often these days)
7:00pm – eat Marietjie’s excellent beef curry and dumplings
9:00pm – get in tent and go to bed – yes, we are old people and we go to bed at 9 o’clock

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Picture of the Day: Kevin catches me trying to coax one of these puppies onto our bus

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